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KAAA and Post-war New Territories 嘉道理農業輔助會及戰後新界
The KAAA, forerunner of the Kadoorie Farm, was established to help immigrant farmers fleeing political instability in the Mainland China to make a living in Hong Kong.
Soon after the end of the Second World War, civil war broke out in China. Escaping refugees fled into Hong Kong en masse. Those with little money or skills settled in the New Territories as subsistence farmers. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s post-war government was faced with the daunting task of feeding a rapidly growing urban population. They needed to step up so as to improve local agriculture so as to safeguard food security and help destitute farmers.
The benevolent brothers Lawrence and Horace Kadoorie felt that a dedicated agricultural programme would be a viable solution. So, working in partnership with the government and farmers in need, they founded the KAAA in 1951 in the hope that those who were willing to help themselves could achieve self-sufficiency through farming, and in doing so help fulfil Hong Kong’s food demand.
Receiving working cattle from KAAA
Lawrence and Horace Kadoorie knew that pigs grew rapidly and so the farmers would get the satisfaction from nurturing their rapidly growing capital. In its first year of operation, the KAAA focused on teaching farmers the art of pig-raising.
The KAAA offered interest-free loans for pigsty construction, two to three sows as breeding stock as well as detailed instructions for care and feeding. Loan repayment was due when the litter was mature enough to be sold at market. This scheme was to become the driving force behind the development of the pig and poultry industry in post-war Hong Kong.
KAAA distributed sows to farmers
The KAAA also supported local public works and brought significant improvement to local villages. They distributed over 430,000 bags of cement plus other building materials for the construction of village paths, dams, and irrigation channels. Over 318km of roads and paths were built in the New Territories.
Following the approval of the relevant District Office, the KAAA would issue cement to village communities. Construction work was mostly undertaken by villagers during the off-season.
Together, these measures improved irrigation and enhanced agricultural productivity. The faster and more efficient transportation of fresh vegetables meant a better economic return for farmers.
Water dam at Ngau Tam Mei donated by KAAA, 1950s
Farmers needed money to purchase feed and other agricultural necessities, but they were often rejected by banks who considered their requests “high risk”. As a consequence, farmers were often forced to turn to “laan” (vegetable wholesalers) or unscrupulous money-lenders, who charged usury rates as high as 8% to 30% per month.
In 1953, the Kadoorie Agricultural Aid Loan Fund (KAALF) was established to improve this situation. The KAALF granted interest-free or low interest short-term loans without security. After becoming overwhelmed with applications and following administrative complications, the trust was put under the administration of the government by an ordinance in 1955.
Booth about Kadoorie Agricultural Loan Fund in Agricultural show 1960s
According to the KAAA studies in 1956 - 1957, there were almost 9,000 recorded cases of extreme hardship amongst widowed women in rural areas, many of whom had lost their husbands during the Second World War. These widows survived by working odd-jobs such as hillside grass cutting. The KAAA offered free gifts according to each widow’s needs: pigs or cattle for younger widows and hens and cocks for older widows.
Widows being gifted cattle by Horace Kadoorie
After several years of operation and observation, the KAAA felt that enhanced assistance in the form of breed improvement and economic feasibility should be based on solid scientific research. It also wanted to explore the viability of hillside farming on the slopes of the New Territories. It was said that on one of Horace Kadoories’ frequent walks across the upper slopes of Tai Mo Shan, he came across abandoned terraces of tea and evidence of rice and plantain cultivation. He also found an untended tangerine tree flourishing in the wilderness. This discovery had inspired Horace to set up the KAAA Experimental Farm at Paak Ngau Shek in 1956, which would also become the KAAA’s new headquarters.
Kadoorie Farm in the early years
A special feeding trough on the upper slopes at the Experimental Farm, which aimed to engage pigs in exercise. Their growth was documented in detail.
A special feeding trough for pigs at the Experimental Farm
The Agricultural Show was once a major event in the New Territories. First organised in 1953 by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, the show aimed to promote agricultural development and the local rural economy. Competitions were organised for farmers in over 200 categories, ranging from agricultural produce to farming equipment, to encourage knowledge exchange. The final show was held in 1972.
Booths in the Agricultural Show
Staff from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department stayed at Castle Peak Experimental Farm’s temporary workshop operating around the clock to ensure that billboards along major thoroughfares and other graphics on site would be ready in time for the Agricultural Show.
A roadside billboard for the Agricultural Show in 1957
Hong Kong’s agricultural industry began to decline in the 1970s when urbanisation in the New Territories picked up speed and farmers moved away from rural areas. Keeping pace with this change, KAAA became the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden Corporation (KFBG) in 1995, and has been actively responding to climate change by promoting the adaptation of localised and low-carbon lifestyles in recent years.